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Western New England University Law School's Innovative Family Mediation Project to be Discussed at Family Court Conference

The Association for Families and Conciliation Courts will hold its 54th Annual Conference, "Turning the Kaleidoscope of Family Conflict into a Prism of Harmony" in Boston from May 31 through June 3.  On Friday, June 2, 2017, Judge David Sacks of the Hampden Probate and Family Court in Springfield and Adjunct Professor Oran Kaufman, who teaches the Family Law Mediation Clinic at Western New England University School of Law, along with Jocelyn I. Axelson, of the Hampden Probate and Family Court and Betsy Williams of the Mediation and Training Collaborative in Greenfield, MA, will give a presentation on the groundbreaking Massachusetts Trial Court Mandatory Mediation pilot, which includes a clinic from Western New England Law School and is now in its third year of operations.   The workshop, entitled “Mandatory Mediation is not an Oxymoron!” will discuss the creation, operation, and benefits of Massachusetts’ first ever mandatory mediation pilot and its collaborative effort with Western New England University School of Law’s Family Law Mediation Clinic.  The pilot has been operational since 2014, with the clinic in place since 2015.
Courts struggle daily with heavy caseloads in family law cases, often with children’s lives in the balance, awaiting outcomes that can take years.  The Massachusetts mediation pilot program has been effective in resolving matters, reducing litigation, saving time and expense and increasing communication between parties.  It has been met with overwhelming client satisfaction.  The idea of mandatory mediation has long been championed by Judge Sacks.  Prof. Kaufman, who teaches a mediation class at Western New England Law School, was instrumental, along with Dean Eric Gouvin, in arranging to have his students actually observe and mediate and a law school clinic component has been added to the pilot.  The clinical program has the added benefit of providing law students with an interest in becoming third-party neutrals with the invaluable supervised field work they need to qualify for many mediator lists.  This field work, together with a mandatory forty-hour classroom instruction component, gives the participating law students the qualifications they need to serve as mediators in many programs.  The clinical work provides the law students with the unique and valuable experience of mediating live, real cases with live, real client (as opposed to the traditional method of instruction through simulated role playing exercises).